Districts and neighbourhoods in Barcelona
1. Ciutat Vella
The old town concentrates in this district and its highlights are the uniqueness of each of its neighbourhoods. All of them share a common feature: narrow streets intertwined. Walking around these streets means to discover all kinds of businesses, which are not only different to each others, but also special. At the same time, there are big avenues that cross or delimit the neighbourhoods, by which a large number of vehicles and/or pedestrians go through daily.
The city of Barcelona was set up around the area of Barri Gòtic; therefore, the neighbourhood is permeated by architectural traces that show the antiquity of Barcelona: the cathedral, the Roman wall, as well as, several Gothic churches, for example, the Basílica de Santa María del Mar or the Basílica de Santa María del Pi. In the vicinity, there are small boutiques, shops, cafés and cosy squares, such as, Plaça Reial, Plaça del Pi or Plaça de Santa María, among others. There are also big chains and shopping malls like Maremagnum, which is at the harbour. There is also place for business at the harbour, since there you can find World Trade Center.
Barri Gòtic limits with the Ramblas, Vía Laietana, Paseo de Colón and Plaça de Catalunya, central axes of the city of Barcelona. Other interesting points to be found in this district are the zone of El Born with great daily and night activity, the big park of Parc de la Ciutadella, the zoo of Barcelona and the Picasso Museum, among others.
Something that makes Barcelona stand among other major European cities is its beach: La Barceloneta. This vicinity is ideal for surfers and sea lovers, for those who enjoy outdoor sports, or simply for those who wish to liberate from the stress of the big city at the seaside. Along the coast, you can find the Olympic Port with countless restaurants, bars and night clubs. Unlike other areas of the district, La Barceloneta has a more ordered urban organization. Though its streets are still narrow, they are more organized forming squared blocks of buildings.
El Raval is located across Barri Gòtic, where the cultural offer is the protagonist. Here you can find the Museum of Contemporary Art of Catalonia, the Catalan Library and several theatres. Culture and leisure are present in every corner of the neighbourhood, in the inner courtyards of the buildings and at its squares. Rambla del Ravall, Carrer de Joaquín Costa, Calle Tallers or Carrer del Carme are some of the most outstanding streets with bars and pubs for all tastes.
The splendour of the city is shown in this district that was the result of the “widening” (in Cataln eixample) of the city. Indeed, the neighbourhood was named after this plan, which was designed by the engineer and urban planner Idelfons Cerdá. The Cerdá Plan consisted in widening the city following symmetrical patterns in order to form square blocks with chamfered corners. It is particularly singular that inside these square blocks, there are big inner courtyards, terraces and even playgrounds for children. The district is characterized by its impressive old and modernist buildings; among them, it is worth to highlight Gaudí’s works: Pedrera, Casa Batló and Sagrada Familia. The latter is still under construction since the end of the 19th Century.
As you can see, the image of the district has been excellently planned and preserved. Eixample is very homogeneous and there is a high concentration of population, whose social level is predominantly medium and high. Even though the public varies a lot, there are many families originally from Barcelona living there for generations. The activity of the district is completely diverse: business, entertainment, education, health and other public services; in other words, everything is present in Eixample.
The Diagonal Avenue is one of the main streets of the city, which crosses perpendicularly the neighbourhood of Dreta de l’Eixample and which delimits the neighbourhood of Sagrada Familia and Fort Pienc. Another main road is the Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes traversing the district from one extreme to another. Eixample is further characterised by the length of its streets and avenues. Generally, every street starts at one end of the district and ends on the other, both horizontally and vertically. In some cases, the streets are even longer until the point of being part of other districts. For example, Balmes Street has an approximate length of 3.7 kilometres.
Dreta De L’Eixample is the central neighbourhood, also known as Quadrat d’Or because of the high concentration of the modernist buildings already mentioned. In this vicinity, you can also find beautiful walks where small boutiques, luxury brands, bars and restaurants for the most demanding customers abound, such as Passeig de Gràcia, Passeig de Sant Joan and Rambla de Catalunya. More precisely, between Passeig de Gràcia, Passeig de Sant Joan and Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes, you can find the Zone 11, namely, a sector dedicated to training centres for theatre, film and image businesses. Rambla de Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia converge in Plaça de Catalunya, where hundreds of shops, underground and metropolitan rail lines concentrate. It is precisely there, where people congregate to celebrate festive events or to protest. Moreover, Passeig de Sant Joan culminates at the famous Arc de Triomf.
As follows, some other points of interest in the district are highlighted:
In the vicinity of Sant Antoni stands the historical market, homonymous to the area where it is located. The market is currently being restored and its reopening is planned for late 2016.
Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample is well known as Gaieixample, since the activity of the gay community is concentrated in this zone, where you can find numerous shops, bars and nightclubs.
Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample has one of the biggest parks of the city, Parc de Joan Miró. In the surroundings, you can find the Arenas shopping centre, which has been built in an old bull ring. The main headquarter of the University of Barcelona is also located in this area.
Fort Pienc is the smallest neighbourhood of the district and is placed in the triangle formed by the Diagonal Avenue and the Meridiana Avenue that intersect at Plaça Glòries, square that is currently being restructured. The National Theatre of Catalonia and the Auditorium of the city have their seat in this vicinity. Additionally, the quarter concentrates two types of collectives: Chinese population, with their corresponding business and Chinese restaurants; and the “geek” group, since there are many video game, comic and RPG shops in this part of the city.
Sants-Monjuïc is the largest district of Barcelona which is placed on the shores of the Mediterranean. In this district, you can find several tourist attractions: Montjuïc Mountain, Plaça de Espanya, Poble Espanyol, the Olympic Stadium and the Magic Fountain. Fira de Barcelona is also in this district, which is an exhibition space that was extended to Fira 2 in Gran Vía. This extension is located in the largest neighbourhood of the district: Marina del Prat Vermell, occupying the whole coast until Prat the Llobregat and bordering with Les Corts. Marina del Prat Vermell is continuously growing and there are different urban business projects in process, such as the D38 business district.
In general terms, the district is residential, since the working families who worked in the industrial sectors of the district settled around here. The main train station is placed in the neighbourhood of Sants, area with a high population density. Poble Sec is mainly characterised by its cultural and night life, which is mainly in Parallel Avenue.
4. Les Corts
The Diagonal Avenue is the big backbone of the district, which crosses the neighbourhood of Les Corts and which delimits the neighbourhoods of Pedralbes and La Maternintat i Sant Ramón. The district is a unique area with different spaces and historical, cultural and architectural attractions.
North of the Diagonal Avenue, the district is more residential and there, you can find, for instance, the Lycée Français, the Monastery of Pedralbes and the Royal Palace of Pedralbes. South of the Diagonal Avenue, you can find the big shopping centre of L’llla, El Corte Inglés, as well as other shops and business areas.
At the western end of the Diagonal Avenue, both north and south of it, there are different faculties and technical schools of the University of Barcelona and the Polytechnic University of Barcelona, as well as some business schools, such as the well-known ESADE. In this area, you can also find the Real Club of Polo, the Real Club of Tennis and the large sports complex of the University of Barcelona, which also allows access to non-university public. South to this big complex, you can find the famous Camp Nou.
5. Sarrià-Sant Gervasi
This district is located in the most frequented area of access to the natural park of Collserolla by the locals. Its main feature is its mountainous geography, due to the closeness to the mountain of Collserolla, which constitutes the most important green lung of the city. Therefore, the district is mainly residential and full of greenery; it is actually the district preferred by the upper classes of the city.
The district is named after its two key centres: Sarrià and Sant-Gervasi. In fact, the district has been adding the surrounding former municipalities to become the district that we know today.
Two of the most important roads are Via Augusta and Ronda del General Mitre that intersect and completely cross the district. In the neighbourhoods of El Putxet i el Farró and Vallvidrera-El Tibidabo i Les Planes, the main feature is that single family houses are quite frequent. El Putxet i Farro is located on the mountain of Putxet, which is crowned by the gardens of Turó del Putxet. At the top of Tibidabo, apart from the extraordinary views of the city, you can also enjoy your time at the Tibidabo amusement park, the Temple of the Sacred Heart and the Fabra Observatory.
This district stands out for its neighbourhood cohesion and the cultural and associative effort of its inhabitants. In general, all the streets are narrow and small and converge in beautiful squares. In the upper part of the district, namely, in Vallcarca i Els Penitents, El Coll and La Salut, you can often find old houses with garden and stairs to access. These constructions are currently combined with new buildings. The land is hilly and it was originally a non-urban area for summer, because there are many frequent areas, in fact, Vallcarca and Els Penitents reach the mountain of Collserolla; and the vicinity of El Coll and La Salut are crowned by the park of Creueta del Coll and Güell Park, respectively. Indeed, this famous work developed by Gaudí was conducted in the summer house of a Catalan family.
One of the major roads of the district is Travessera de Dalt, which crosses the district from east to west and which is usually quite busy. Additionally, Travessera de Gràcia crosses the district as well from one side to the other side of the neighbourhood, but the latter is south of the former.
Vila de Gràcia is the oldest neighbourhood of the district and its narrow streets contrast with the wide and long streets ordered by squared blocks in the bordering district of Eixample. In Vila de Gràcia, the environment is dominated by small shops and boutiques, as well as the great diurnal and nocturnal activity of cultural, gastronomic, leisure and business nature. The heart of the neighbourhood is around the street of Gran de Gràcia, which is perpendicular to the Diagonal Avenue and Travessera de Dalt. It is worth it to mention that popular festivities have a major role in the neighbourhood, among them, the most important are the Festa Major, Sant Medirand els Fogerons de Sa Pobla.
Finally, the vicinity of El Camp d’en Grassot i Gràcia Nova has a more ordered urban distribution than the rest of the district, since the squared rectangular blocks predominate.
Horta-Guinardó is located in the upper area of Barcelona and it stretches from the border with Eixample and Sant Martí inward into the mountain of Collserolla. For this reason, the geography of the district is quite mountainous and full of green spaces. In general terms, the district has been totally affected by two historical milestones that happened in the second half of the twentieth century: the Spanish migratory wave and the 1992 Olympic Games.
The district is divided into eleven neighbourhoods. All of them are relatively small, except the three that are in the upper part of the district: Sant Genís dels Agudells, Montbau and Horta. It is precisely in this upper area of the city, where Ronda de Dalt goes through and it connects with the motorway, providing easy entry to and exit from the city. North to Ronda de Dalt you can find the Mundet Campus of the University of Barcelona and the park of Parc del Laberint, in the neighbourhoods of Montbau and Horta, respectively.
The districts of El Carmel and Can Baró have a quite complex urban organization, since they are located in a hilly area and their streets are narrow and winding. Both neighbourhoods suffered a sharp growth due to the wave of Spanish migrants and they are currently being target of urban restructuring projects in order to improve their accesses. In this area, on top of the hill of Turó de la Rovira, you can find the Bunkers del Carmel and the viewpoint of anti-aircraft batteries, which were built out of the Spanish Civil War. From these constructions, which are being currently restored, the visitor can have stunning views of the city.
Baix Guinardó is a neighbourhood placed in the south of the district. There the park of Park de les Aigües is placed, which is a public park where a building from the 19th Century is located. In the nearby neighbourhood of El Guinardó, you can find another great green lung of the district. In this and some other areas of the valley of Horta, it was common to build houses with small gardens, until the trend changed because of the migration wave, the resulting population growth and speculation in the second half of the 20th Century. Then, large blocks were massively built, which changed the original aspect of these neighbourhoods. Yet the neighbourhoods placed at Horta Valley are still residential and quiet.
Archeologically, it is worth to highlight the complex of Sant Pau Hospital, which is placed in the neighbourhood of El Guinardó. This project was initiated in the early 20th Century under the orders of the well-known Catalan architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner. It is also one of the best examples of the Catalan modernism and it has been listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
La Font d'en Fargues is one of the suburbs of the city and there you can mostly find luxury buildings, some old towers and medium height buildings. La Teixonera and La Clota have similar features, yet the latter has remainded a little more rural until today. Sant Genís dels Agudells shares the above characteristics, but much of its area is undeveloped, since it is green area part of the Collserolla Mountain.
The neighbourhood of La Vall d'Hebron experienced a drastic and accelerated change due to the Olympic Games in 1992, because of the amount of undeveloped land which was filled with numerous buildings and sport facilities for that occasion.
8. Les Corts
Nou Barris is located in the northeast corner of Barcelona and it consists of thirteen neighbourhoods, which size is relatively small, since the district itself is not very extensive. The district is placed between Sant Andreu and the Mountain of Collserolla. Like Horta-Guinardó, Nou Barris was also affected by the wave of Spanish labour migration between the 50s and the 60s which caused a rapid urban growth in the 70s and the construction of the so-called “cheap houses”.
The neighbourhoods of Ciutat Meridiana, Torre Baró, Vallbona and Canyelles are located in the slopes of the Collserolla Mountain; thus, they have a mountainous geography. These, along with the neighbourhoods of Les Roquetes and La Trinitat Nova, are located north to Ronda de Dalt. The areas placed south to Ronda de Dalt, for instance, La Guineueta, Verdum and La Prosperitat, have larger population, because its geography is less complex. In general, they have narrow streets and they are delimited from each other by wider roads. There are many green areas in the district and one of the main streets is the Meridiana Avenue, which means one of the most important accesses to the city and which delimits the district with Sant Andreu.
The neighbourhood of Turó de la Peira is located around the hill after which it is named. On the top, there is a park where you can have great views of the city. This neighbourhood plus Can Peguera, Verdum, La Prosperitat and almost all the areas in the district were affected by the bad urban planning of the city in the 70s, which intended fast constructions with bad qualities and without the minimum services. However, these neighbourhoods have been the target of several projects aiming at the improvement and remodelling of the vicinities, likewise other neighbourhoods with similar features in other districts. Among others, the public transport services have improved a lot and this part of the city is connected to the rest of the city thanks to the underground lines of L3, L4 and L11.
One of the attractions in the district is the musical show that takes place in the Font Mágica Manuel de Falla, which is located in the park of Serra Martí in the neighbourhood of Canyelles.
9. Sant Andreu
Sant Andreu is a district with industrial and working tradition. It consists of seven districts and it is located in the east part of the city, between Nou Barris and Sant Martí. Concerning the means of transport, the district enjoys a privileged situation to entry or exit the city, since it is between the Meridiana Avenue and Ronda Litoral. At the northern end of the district, the Rounds of Barcelona converge together with the motorway and other interurban roads. Moreover, the high speed train station (AVE) is located in the neighbourhood of La Sagrera, which is the second station in the city. The incorporation of such infrastructure to the district has positively affected its activity, as well as the construction of the shopping mall of La Maquinista did, located in the neighbourhood of El Buen Pastor.
10. Sant Martí
Sant Martí is a district in which there is room for everything: industrial, commercial, residential formative and festive activity, business, etc. Originally, it was an industrial and working class, but in the course of the time, the district has incorporated new services and activities to become a conglomeration of everything.
The best-known symbol of the district is the Agbar Tower, yet there are two additional towers placed at the Mediterranean shore, which are also known: the Arts Hotel and the Mapfre Tower. Due to the 1992 Olympic Games, La Villa Olímpica was built in order to provide the sport people with accommodation, since the Olympic Harbour is also in this district, more precisely in the neighbourhood of El Poblenou. There is another neighbourhood located at the shore of the sea; this is Diagonal Mar i el Front Maritim del Poblenou. This district stands out because of the large area of beaches with white sand: Nova Icària Beach, Mar Bella Beach and Bogatell Beach.
Similarly, El Besòs i el Maresme has a small part of the Mediterranean coast. Following the migration wave of the 50s-60s, this neighbourhood was a kind of dormitory area. Nevertheless, new projects have been recently developed, which have changed the vitality of the neighbourhood. For example, the facilities of Fòrum i Diagonal Mar were built. Furthermore, there are other projects planned, such as the construction of a university campus for the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in this neighbourhood.
The Pompeu Fabra University has a campus devoted to studies in the field of telecommunications, technology and languages in the neighbourhood of Poblenou, which has been the result of remodelling and restructuring an industrial complex, keeping the original building of the old facility. This campus is placed in the new technological district called 22@ and it is near the Glòries shopping centre and Plaça Glòries, which is currently being restructured. This area keeps the urban district arrangements of the Cerdá plan.
The urban organization of the neighbourhoods is generally quite simple: squared blocks and wide streets, except of El Camp de L’Arpa del Clot, El Clot y La Verneda i La Pau. In these cases, their streets are more narrow and intertwined streets. The district is crossed by four major access roads to the city: Avenida Meridiana, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, Avenida Diagonal and Ronda Litoral. Moreover, it is one of the districts of the city which has tram, in addition to underground and bus services.